Startups: How to Fail With Your Polished Pitch

In addition to Media Camp, our team identifies companies for Turner to work with as a customer or partner. One thing we see, especially with early stage companies, is that their pitches aren’t geared to the target audience – in this case, startups pitch Turner as if we are a VC rather than a customer.

In one case, a mobile game company came in that, prior to any introductions, launched into a presentation detailing how big the mobile space was, what its iPhone predictions were, and other market-sizing data, clearly using its investor deck. Had we started with intros, they would have learned that our team had significant mobile experience including two team members with over 25 years of combined experience at Apple who knew the iPhone quite well, one of which whom actually worked on the iPhone launch itself. The presentation continued as a VC pitch, even though we weren’t VC’s. We were interested in the technology behind the product to see if it could be used within Turner.

In another case, a startup team went into detail on the amount of money they were looking to raise, how they would spend the money, and their potential exit strategy. This was great from a fundraising standpoint, but what about the value proposition to the customer? Does the goal of getting acquired by Facebook or Google help that customer?

While it’s understandable that the focus for an early stage company is on fundraising, and the VC pitch might be more fresh in their mind, if the company is pitching a potential customer, it should adjust the pitch for that audience.

This may sound obvious, but it happens quite often, especially with early stage companies or companies that have recently graduated from an accelerator where the focus is pitching potential investors. As the company shifts to customer acquisition, it needs to develop the right pitch for the right audience.

How does one do that?

Evolving a company’s VC pitch into a sales pitch is a natural part of its growth into a full-fledged business, and there are concrete ways to make sure this happens properly. Having rockstar salespeople on the team certainly helps. The best salespeople listen and ask questions first before launching into any sales presentation or product demo. They listen to what the potential customer is saying and tailor the pitch as needed.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

Think of the value the product or service brings to the customer. Does the solution help increase user-acquisition, engagement or monetization? Does it save money or provide a competitive advantage? Does it solve a pain point? Is it aligned with the customer’s own roadmap?

For most sales pitches, demos are key. If you ask the right questions early on in the conversation, you can highlight parts of the demo that relate back to the topics discussed.

Much like you target the value and return to investors during fundraising, you have to target the value to potential customers in sales calls. In the end, they’re all sales pitches – to different audiences.

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